I’m revisiting The Mudbow Sisters, my “Sons of Katie Elder with Dwarves” novel, by sending my query to publishers instead of agents this time. That’s how I got Merm-8 first published, and I miss having a book on the shelves. There are people who do read my work. My wife knows someone who read it because she looks for books by local authors.
There aren’t as many publishers as agents who take direct, unsolicited submissions so this won’t take long. Most of them have some excluding factor, like being only Christian or only romance, neither of which my book is. And you can tell by the quality of the book covers where they sit on the vanity press spectrum.
As I make my new queries, I realize one of the problems I’m running into is that it’s so unlike anything else on the shelf, now or in the past. It’s a story about four dwarf women. When have you ever seen fantasy dwarf culture portrayed in any medium? They don’t even show it in Lord of the Rings, the quintessential epic fantasy where dwarves originated. Oh, they show dwarves (male dwarves) but they never go to their homeland and show their family lives or architecture or culture.
Past that, it’s not about four dwarf women on an epic fantasy quest. It’s a close-to-home “rite of passage” story closer in plot to Little Women or The Outsiders or The Royal Tenenbaums without the twee or quirk. But it’s not “file the serial numbers off Terms of Endearment”. There are real characters in here–rough, tough, hard as stone, twice as craggy dwarves. Products of a defined culture and upbringing.
So when the publisher asks me to “name three to five other books published in the past half-decade that are similar to yours”, I am scraping the bottom of the 99-cent bin. The setup sounds like tear-jerker family drama, but I’ve transplanted the cast of characters from The Hobbit. Two great tastes that taste great together? Well, I think so. But no one else has made the recipe.
Maybe that’s the reason I didn’t try very hard to get it published. I mean, I certainly didn’t shirk. I combed through all the agents that rep “fantasy”, but got fewer bites than I ever had before. Was it because no one writes about dwarves, much less women dwarves? Maybe. Was it because it was a bit on the short side (85,000 words) and most fantasies are epics? Maybe. Was it because it was 2019 and everything was a garbage fire? Maybe.
So yeah, I don’t exactly follow the trends of literature. But all the writing advice says not to. As soon as you cater to one trend, it fades and another takes its place. I just need to wait until small bearded woman hop on board and I’ll be riding that gravy train.